Wine marketers never miss an opportunity to drum up attention, even if they need to create one. That’s why seemingly every grape variety grown around the world has its own national or international day. By my count, the month of April features celebration days for tannat (April 14), malbec (April 17), marselan (April 27) and viognier (April 28). Of those, malbec likely enjoys the greatest popularity with wine consumers, thanks to the continuing efforts of winemakers in Argentina.
Canada is the fourth-largest market for malbec from Argentina, where the drink has been cultivated for 170 years. April 17 has been christened World Malbec Day to honour the founding of Argentina’s first agricultural school. Today, malbec accounts for almost 24 per cent of Argentina’s total vineyard surface and 40 per cent of its red grape production. While the grape variety is found in every wine-producing region in the country, the majority of malbec (85 per cent) comes from Mendoza. Not surprisingly, the majority of malbecs on store shelves across the country come from Mendoza, although wineries in that region are doing a good job promoting different districts, such as the Uco Valley and Lujan du Cuyo, and smaller subregions to help consumers discover malbecs with different flavours and personalities.
Whether you’re interested in joining in the celebration or looking ahead to barbecue season, here is a selection of eight malbecs and one malbec blend that showcase the range of styles that are being created with this expressive grape variety.
Catena Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $23.95
A long-time favourite, Catena delivers a complex and crowd-pleasing malbec vintage after vintage. The winemaking team blends malbec grapes on three vineyards at a range of altitudes, from 920 metres above sea level to 1,450 in Gualtallary. The mix of fruit flavours are juicy, ripe and concentrated, with complexity from leather and floral notes and a lingering finish. The style is approachable upon release, but promises to develop. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $26.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $27.99 in Saskatchewan, $24.99 in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, $25.95 in New Brunswick, $26.79 in Nova Scotia, $25.56 in Newfoundland.
Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec Organic 2021 (Argentina), $16.95
Bouquet operates a large estate in Tupungato, located in the higher elevation Gualtallary district of Mendoza. This organic malbec is packed with ripe fruit flavours that are accented by earthy flavours that add interest. There’s bright acidity to balance the fruity intensity and youthful tannins help to provide structure. A serious wine for the price. Drink now to 2025. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price ($15.95 until April 23), $17.99 in British Columbia ($16.99 until April 29), various prices in Alberta, $25.01 in Nova Scotia (Bishop’s Cellar).
Dona Paula Estate Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $18
Made in a consistently enjoyable style, this offers fresh berry fruit with peppery and floral flavours. There’s appealing concentration and structure, which adds depth to this easygoing red wine. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price ($15 until April 23), $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $19.49 in Saskatchewan, $15.99 in Manitoba, $15.49 in Quebec, $20.99 in Nova Scotia.
Mascota Unanime Gran Vino Tinto 2018 (Argentina), $26.95
This opulent style of red wine is a rich and rewarding blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and cabernet franc. Unanime Gran Vino’s fruit flavours are concentrated and juicy with spice and tobacco notes for complexity. Flavourful and ageworthy, this is a polished and inviting red from one of Argentina’s most exciting wineries. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.99 in British Columbia, $31.97 in Newfoundland.
Pascual Toso Estate Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $17.45
More focused on fruit and easygoing appeal than the Limited Edition rated below, this is the go-to in the Toso lineup. There’s a ripe core of jammy fruit flavours, relaxed tannins and moderate finish that combine for a crowd-pleasing character. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia ($12.99 until April 29), various prices in Alberta.
Pascual Toso Limited Edition Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $20.45
Produced with grapes grown in Barrancas in the Maipu district of Mendoza, this is a robust and complex style of malbec. Aging in American oak contributes bold coffee and spice notes, which overshadow the cherry and plum aromas and flavours. It’s a flavourful red that’s built for barbecue season. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price ($18.45 until April 23).
Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $21.95
Pioneering winemaker Susana Balbo established her winery in Lujan de Cuyo in Agrelo, but farms a lot of grapes in Alaamira, the renowned red wine region of the Uco Valley for her portfolio. Her Signature Malbec shows ripe dark fruit, black olive and meaty aromas. Made in a dry, elegant style, this is fresh with serious structure and length. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario.
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $21.95
Made in a simple and fruity style, with concentrated cooked fruit flavours and a slightly creamy texture. Easygoing and flavourful but lacking dimension. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price ($19.95 until April 23), $22.99 in Manitoba, $21.95 in Quebec.
Zuccardi Q Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $22.95
The best plots of each of the Zuccardi’s vineyards in the Uco Valley are classified with a Q for quality and every effort was made to realize that potential. That letter grade spawned the family’s Q series of wines in 1998 and the style of wine has evolved with the times. The current production is fermented and aged in concrete vessels with some portions aged in used barrels (larger 500-litre formats) to put emphasis on the flavours from the grapes as opposed to notes provided by new oak barrels. The palate is smooth and satisfying with an appealing mix of concentrated dark fruit and savoury flavours. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in British Columbia and Alberta, $30.99 in Saskatchewan, $24.99 in Manitoba, $29.99 in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, $29.58 in Nova Scotia.